Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia on July 4, en route to the G20 Summit in Hamburg, provided both countries the opportunity to showcase the range and depth of their strategic partnership, especially in the context of the uncertainties in their relationships with the United States.
Russia conferred its highest state award to President Xi, in recognition of his contribution to bilateral friendship. Russia-China trade continues to surge: $66 billion in 2016 and $32 billion in January-May 2017. Russia exported 52.5 million tonnes of oil to China in 2016. A gas pipeline is under construction, to transport 38 billion cubic metres of gas from Russia to China over 30 years. China has invested in LNG projects in Russia’s Arctic region (as part of its Belt and Road Initiative). President Putin noted intensive discussions on linking the Eurasian Economic Union with the Chinese Silk Road Economic Belt (the land corridor of BRI), “to form a broad Eurasian partnership”.
Russia is implementing a number of nuclear energy projects in China. Russia and China are jointly developing aircraft, helicopters and high-speed railways. Broad-basing of defence cooperation is proceeding apace. In a demonstration of Russia-China solidarity in the face of challenges in their neighbourhoods, the two countries held their first-ever joint naval exercises in the Baltic Sea (July 21 to 28).
In a joint statement, the two countries advanced a formula for resolving the present impasse in the Korean Peninsula: essentially consisting of a voluntary North Korean moratorium on nuclear and missile tests, while the United States and ROK refrain from “large-scale joint exercises”. This would lay the ground for an inter-Korean dialogue, aiming to establish the framework for peaceful coexistence in a denuclearised Korean peninsula, eventually drawing in other relevant countries for developing a security architecture for Northeast Asia. The Statement also calls for withdrawal of the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) systems from the region, arguing that they threaten the strategic security interests of Russia and China, without achieving the aim of Korean denuclearization.
The United States and Europe are yet to respond effectively to the adverse geo-strategic implications of this intensifying Russia-China embrace.
July 30, 2017